AFL Round 13 – Essendon v Melbourne:`The Late Winner´

There is something stunning about last-minute winners. The way players dig deep and will their way into those final few contests, desperate to emerge victorious. How the crowd rises and roars, hoping – nay, praying – that their cheers will somehow transfer vital energy to their beloved squad. Matches marked by wild swings in emotions in the tense final few seconds. At Charlie´s Beach – a makeshift beach bar situated near Checkpoint Charlie – I was privy to such moments.

92 minutes had gone by. Switzerland 1 – Ecuador 1. Mere seconds remaining. First draw of the World Cup? Or could someone make the decisive move? In the final passage of play Ecuador looked likely to break the deadlock and deliver jubilation to their supporters. Antonio Valencia, Ecuador´s captain, broke free from his opponent and centred to Michael Arroyo, amazingly unmarked in the penalty box. Needing just to steady and pick his spot, Arroyo faltered. Rather, Valon Behrami was on hand to save the Swiss. Winning the ball, streaming downfield as the roar of the crowd increased with every step, his counterattack led to Ricardo Rodriguez pinpointing a pass to Haris Seferovic. Unlike Arroyo, there was no hesitation from Seferovic. As Ecuador´s goalkeeper sought valiantly to deny him, Seferovic sent the ball cannoning into the back of the net.

In Brazil Swiss fans erupted, embracing their countrymen and women in the stands, rejoicing in the magic of the last-kick winner. Coaches, substitutes, trainers raced onto the field, celebrating as Ecuador´s players sunk to their knees. Their supporters watched on from the bleachers, despondent, unable to properly process the frenzied final 20 seconds of the game. At Charlie´s Beach, there were similar scenes. Three Ecuadorian fans with front row seats sat heads in hands, whilst the rowdy Swiss supporters near the bar danced on the tables. Europe during the World Cup is intoxicating – a month of football fever, night after night of fans experiencing the joy and heartbreak of sport. You cannot help but be swept up in it all.

I imagine there were scenes from the Beach Bar at the MCG on Sunday in the twilight encounter between Essendon and Melbourne. The Bombers fans had enjoyed a comfortable 33-point lead at one stage and were no doubt – as I was via minute-by-minute updates – tearing their hair out as the Demons erased a dire first half to set up an eight point lead late in the game. As in any good thriller, there were twists in the tale right to the end. Deciding something must be done, David Zaharakis stepped up and delivered what appeared to be salvation to the Essendon faithful. Two running goals capped off a memorable performance (31 touches and 4 goals), and seemingly plunged a dagger into the hearts of Melbourne fans. Were they about to endure another gallant loss?

If that was the plan, no-one told Daniel Cross and Christian Salem. Streaming inside 50, the ex-Bulldog found the 18-year old seventh gamer. Like Haris Seferovic, Salem held his nerve and sent the ball sailing through the goals. Melbourne fans who have endured endless frustration with the fortunes of the Demons in recent years no doubt celebrated heartily. To hell with hard fought losses, they were winners today. Singing the song for the fourth time already this season!

They had wanted it more in the end. Essendon – once again wasteful in front of goal – couldn´t match the Dees endeavour. Reading the stats sheet, youngsters Viney, Tyson and Kent appeared to be the sparks Melbourne needed.

Tomorrow I head to the main Fan Zone in Berlin to watch Germany take on Portugal along with what I can only imagine will be tens of thousands of die-hard fans. With any luck the Germans will emerge victorious, and I can party into the night…

ESSENDON: 2.4, 5.12, 8.12, 10.17 (77)
MELBOURNE 0.3 3.3 7.6 12.6 (78)


Essendon: Zaharakis 4, Ambrose, Ryder, Z. Merrett, Chapman, Goddard, Daniher
Melbourne: Pedersen 2, Frawley 2, Kent 2, Watts 2, Jones, Grimes, Vince, Salem


Essendon: Zaharakis, Goddard, Hocking, Dempsey, Carlisle
Melbourne: Dunn, Kent, Viney, Frawley, Tyson


Zaharakis (3), Kent (2), Dunn (1)

About Sam Laffy

Thirty-something year-old Essendon supporter. Winning the flag in 2000 when I was 12 was supposed to kick off a dynasty I could boast about for years. Still waiting for that 17th flag.....


  1. Good article Sam! Your comments on the mood swings close to the final siren are right on the money.
    As a Dees supporter, I am surprised to be saying that I empathise.
    You poor supporters have gone through the ringer!
    Having said that, it was the most enjoyable victory I can remember in some time.
    At the end of the game, Dees supporters (including me) were hugging and ‘high-fiving’ friends and absolute strangers.

  2. I don´t mind seeing the Dees win – they haven´t done a lot of it in the past few years. Can you just stop beating us though?!

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